Nine years ago this week, I went on maternity leave. I was 38 weeks pregnant with my first kid, dilated four centimeters, and the thought of being in a meeting–or in the car driving to one–and having my water break kept me awake at night. Reading Wicked and dreaming of having a green child didn’t help my anxiety.
A blizzard had just passed through Denver, shrouding my quiet little neighborhood in a heavy winter snow. When I looked outside, I saw gallons of cream cheese frosting spread perfectly over the world’s biggest carrot cake. I was a pregnant woman with sugar cravings. Everything I saw looked like food.
Unlike Frosty the Snowman, my colossal belly had few benefits in the snow, but it allowed me to beg my way out of monotonous physical chores–like walking to the mailbox. I happily spent an entire week reading, nesting, and watching TV.
My son was born on a Tuesday morning. Except for a massive cone head that made me love him even more, he was perfect. I, however, was not. After hours of labor and a challenging delivery, it isn’t very comforting when you hear the doctor say things like “his shoulders shredded you” as she struggles to sew you up and then asks the nurse to find something that will help make it easier.
I remember feeling like a wimp as I watched other moms walk into the nursery, and I made my husband push me in a wheelchair so I could watch our son get his first bath. I was vindicated (a little) when he asked my doctor how soon I would lose the weight and get back to normal. After glaring at him, she said, “It took nine months for her body to create a baby, and it will take at least nine months for her body to get back to normal.”
Phew. I had nine months, at least, to get back to normal. Since my new best friends were numbing creme and an inflatable donut that a nurse, sensing my desperation, dug up from God knows where I was pretty sure I was going to need all nine months–maybe more.
With time, my body healed and eventually returned to its pre-baby size (sort of). The problem is that I cry now all the time. When I’m happy, I cry. When I’m sad, I cry. Not the chest-heaving sobs of a pubescent girl who wears black and likes oil pastels (that was me too), but wipe-at-your-eyes and shrug-your-shoulders tears.
I cry whenever my kids (yep, I got suckered into another one) have a school play or ask me to snuggle with them, or I hear a lullabye (Billy Joel’s is the best). I get teary and romanticize childbirth every year on their birthdays. I am a pile of open-hearted mama mush. That is my new normal, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. What is normal anyway? Just a word?